Revelation 3:10
If asked to sum up in a word the main lesson of this letter, I would quote the saying of our Lord recorded by St. Luke, "Fear not, little flock." Such is the effect of a right reading of this most precious epistle. It is a heart-cheering word to all such Churches, and to every one of like character. For Philadelphia was -

I. LITTLE. "Thou hast a little strength" (ver. 8), or rather, "Thou hast small power." It refers not to her spiritual strength, for that was not small, but perfected in her weakness. She was mighty through God who upheld and sustained her. Hence the expression is to be regarded as referring, probably, to her membership as but few in number, to her wealth as but very small, to her knowledge and gifts as being but slender, to great and distinguished men amongst her as being very rare, to her social position as being quite humble. Hence she was small in human esteem, one of those "weak things," which, however, God often chooses wherewith to accomplish his own purposes. And many a Church, beloved of the Lord, is like Philadelphia, having only "a little strength." But also she was -

II. MUCH TRIED. Looking at this letter, we can gather what some of these trials were. It seems that:

1. Their place amongst the people of God was denied. We gather this from what is said as to the assertion of the Jews, who, as at Galatia and everywhere else, affirmed that they only, the descendants of Abraham, were the Israel of God: none else had part or lot therein. In ver. 9 emphasis is to be laid on the word "they" in the sentence, "which say they are Jews." St. Paul was perpetually fighting against this exclusiveness, and was for ever teaching that in Christ Jesus there was "neither Jew nor Greek." But all the same, it caused considerable uneasiness amongst the early Gentile believers. There was much to be urged out of the Scriptures in favour of the real descendants of Abraham, especially if they were also "as touching the Law blameless." They seemed to many as a privileged order, a spiritual aristocracy, admission into whose circle was indeed to be desired. Hence so many Gentiles submitted to the rite of circumcision (cf. Epistle to the Galatians, passim). And the taunts of the Jews at Philadelphia against the Christians, as being not really God's people at all, was one form of the trials they were called upon to bear. And still there is many a believer, excommunicated by man, but not at all so by God; denied his place in earthly Churches, though it be abundantly his in the Church of the Firstborn. Catholics have denounced Protestants, and Protestants one another, and both have retorted, and all have been wrong, and sinful in being wrong, whenever those whom they have denounced have shown that they did unfeignedly trust and love and obey Christ the Lord. The cry, "The Church of the Lord, the Church of the Lord are we!" is often raised by those who have no right to it, and against those who have. Thus was it at Sardis.

2. They had to encounter active opposition. Endeavours seem to have been made to shut the door of usefulness which the Lord had opened for them. His emphatic declaration that none should shut that door implies that there had been those who had tried to do so. And how often since then have dominant and cruel Churches made the same attempt in regard to communities they did not like! Witness the persecutions of Vaudois and Waldenses in Switzerland, of Hussites and others in Bohemia, of Lollards, Protestants, and Puritans in England, of Covenanters in Scotland, and of Catholics in Ireland, - all has been, with more or less of difference, the repetition of what was done at Philadelphia in the days of St. John. And there appears to have been:

3. Attempts to make them apostatize. The meaning of the latter part of ver. 8 is, "Because though thou hast but little strength, nevertheless thou hast kept my word, and hast not denied my Name." Hence we gather - and the tenses of the verbs used imply it also - that there had been some definite attempt of the kind we have said. Like as Saul in his persecuting days forced the unhappy Christians who fell into his power "to blaspheme," so similar force had apparently been used, but, by virtue of Christ's sustaining grace, with no effect. For, notwithstanding all, they were -

III. FAITHFUL. They kept Christ's word, and did not deny his Name; and the first was the cause of the last. Their history illustrates the value of the word of Christ. They clung to it, they would not let it go, they had nothing but this, but this they had and clave to. Twice is it named: "Thou hast kept my word;" "Thou hast kept the word of my patience." And this latter and fuller form reveals a further aid to their faith which they found in Christ's word. "For the word of Christ, as the Philadelphians knew it, was not a word calling them to easy and luxurious and applauded entrance into the kingdom, but to much tribulation first, and the kingdom with the glory of it afterwards." And not only as a word which told them at the beginning that patience would be needed, did it help them; but yet more as the word which revealed Christ their Lord as the great Example and Source and Rewarder of patience; so that, however hard to bear their trials might be, they could turn in thought to their Lord, and behold him meekly bearing his cross - so much heavier than theirs; and they had seen him also sustaining his tried servants again and again, and they knew that he would do the same for them, and they believed that he would assuredly reward their patience. Yes, it was the word of his patience to which they clung, and in the strength of which, though tempted and tried sorely, they would not deny his Name. And their way must be our way, their strength ours, when we are tried. And they were -

IV. GREATLY BLEST. The Lord gave them large reward. To this day the suffering Smyrna and the much-tried Philadelphia alone remain of these seven Churches. Through all manner of vicissitudes the Christian faith has been upheld by them to this day. But see the recompenses spoken of here.

1. Christ confesses them, and denies their slanderers. He pronounces for them and against their foes. Such is the significance of the august and sublime title which the Lord here assumes. It tells of the names of the Lord God of Israel. He was the Holy, the True, the King of Israel, of whom David, with his great authority opening and shutting according to his will, was the Old Testament type and representative. "The key of David" means the power and authority of David, and Christ claims to be as he was, and far more, the Representative of God, and the Possessor of his authority and power. Now, it was by this great and glorious Jehovah that the Jews at Philadelphia affirmed that the Church there was disowned and denied. They said, "You have no part in this God, but we only." But in utter contradiction of this falsehood, he, the Holy One himself, comes forward, and declares that the persecuted Church had part in him, but that they, her slanderers, had not. "Ye Jews say ye are Jews, but in any real sense ye are not; ye do lie; but this my despised, yet faithful Church, I have loved her, and I, the Holy, the True, the King of Israel, do now confess her as she has confessed me." And often and often has the Lord done the like of this. "When wrong has been done to any of his servants here on earth, he will redress it in heaven, disallowing and reversing there the unrighteous decrees of earth. It was in faith of this that Huss, when the greatest council which Christendom had seen for one thousand years delivered his soul to Satan, did himself confidently commend it to the Lord Jesus Christ; and many a faithful confessor that at Rome or Madrid has walked to the stake, his yellow san benito all painted over with devils, in token of those with whom his portion should be, has never doubted that his lot should be with him who retains in his own hands the key of David, who thus could open for him, though all who visibly represented here the Church had shut him out, with extreme malediction, at once from the Church militant here and the Church triumphant in heaven." And the grim cells of Newgate, and the bare bleak hedgerows of our own land, have often been the scenes of similar revelations to God's persecuted ones. God has taken their side, and pronounced for them as he did for the Church at Philadelphia.

2. Their Lord makes them abundantly useful. "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it." His Name declared his power to do this, and here he affirms that he has exercised that power on their behalf. By the "open door," usefulness, opportunity of service and of doing much good, is meant (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 14:27; Colossians 4:3). Now, this Christ declared he had done for them. Perhaps it was by giving them favour in the sight of the people, or by breaking the hold of heathenism, arousing a spirit of inquiry, raising up able teachers, giving them entrance into fresh circles. Fidelity to Christ has given to it a key that will turn the most difficult lock, and open the most closely shut door.

3. Their enemies should submit themselves. As Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle. And again and again out of the ranks of the Church's fiercest foes have come those who have first surrendered their hearts to her cause and then their lives to her service (cf. the conversion of Constantine and of Rome generally). In that this word was literally fulfilled.

4. They should be delivered from the hour of temptation - that dread hour which was drawing near so swiftly (cf. Psalm 91.). Perhaps they would be taken home first, delivered so "from the evil to come." And if not that, raised in heart, as the martyrs perpetually were, above all fear; or some wondrous deliverance should be found for them. They knew that hour was coming, and no doubt they had often shuddered at the prospect. But oh, what joy to be told by their Lord that he would deliver them!

5. The eternal recompense - the crown. Their Lord was quickly coming; let them hold on but a little longer, and then this crown should be theirs. In ver. 12 this crown of recompense is more fully described:

(1) As being made "a pillar in the temple of my God," i.e. they should perpetually abide there, dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever. Now we come and go, in fact and in spirit. Not so there. "He shall go no more out." It is a curious coincidence that amongst the ruins at Philadelphia there stands to this day a solitary tall pillar; it strikes the eye of the traveller, and suggests irresistibly this glorious promise made to the believers who lived there long ago. An ancient geographer says of the place, "It is full of earthquakes, and is daily shaken, now one part, and now another suffering, so that one wonders any should have been found to build or inhabit it." Now, to the Christians, who saw daily in their city the image of their own precarious position, Christ says, "I will make him who overcomes a pillar in the temple of my God," and he shall go no more out" - shall not totter and fall as these stone pillars do, but shall abide stable and sure for ever.

(2) As being identified with:

(a) God. "The Name of my God" Christ will write upon him. It shall be evident that he belongs to God. "Surely this was the Son of God" - so spake they who had crucified the Lord: they could not help seeing the Name of God written upon him.

(b) "The city of my God." Jews had cast them out, but the God of the true "holy city" had declared it theirs, and that their true home was his own city. There are many of whom we say, "We hope they are going to heaven;" there are some of whom we say, "We are sure they are," for their identification with heaven is so complete.

(c) Christ's own Name - that aspect of Christ's love by which the believer realizes that he is Christ's and Christ is his.

"So, gracious Saviour, on my breast,
May thy dear Name be worn,
A sacred ornament and guard
To endless ages borne." S.C.







Sardis.
Among all the messages to the Churches there is no other which is appalling like this to the Church of Sardis. The condemnation and the denunciation are emphatic; the details, however, are obscure, and as we meditate on what is said, it strikes us that this obscurity is due to intentional reserve. This appears, first, in the title given to Christ: "These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." Here we are bidden think, not of the historic Christ, but of the inhabiter of eternity. It is as if, instead of coming forth to reveal Himself, Christ were withdrawing into the recesses of Deity; He seems to be receding from our approaches, not advancing to kindle His people's adoration and reward their love. The same reserve appears in the description of the Church's sinfulness: "I know thy works, that thou hast a name," etc. That is all, but it is such an all as produces an impression of utter condemnation. The call to repentance, too, lacks something which we are accustomed to find in God's appeals to His people: "Become watchful, and stablish the things," etc. There is no hint that what has perished may be restored. More than once I have seen a tree laden with fruit, its broad green leaves betokening vigorous life, while a formless lump in the stock revealed that once the tree was so cankered that it was not expected to recover; and I have read a parable of the revival of dead graces in man's life. No such alleviating hint is dropped concerning Sardis. The time has not come for it; the need of the hour is for warning, only warning. There is a shortness in the threat: "If therefore thou shalt not watch," etc. The Lord does not condescend to say more than is needed. The Church of Sardis knows, after what has been declared, that this coming can only be for judgment, and is left to meditate on the nearness and suddenness of the doom. Even in the acknowledgment that there are faithful persons in Sardis, "a few names which did not defile their garments," and the promise made to "him that overcometh," the reserve is maintained. So deep is the sin of the Church that it is blessedness only to have been free from it. So dire is the doom that, for them who have escaped it, to have their names not blotted out of the book of life is enough. The Lord will confess their names in heaven, because it is a wonder to find souls from Sardis there. How may we apprehend the condition of Sardis? Perhaps we say, Sardis was a worldly Church; and this is undoubtedly true. "She that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth." Addictedness to things that "perish with the using" is both the sign of a languid inner life, and certain destruction of the little life which remains. Or we may say that Sardis was an impure Church. Discipline was unknown in it; even the pretence of discipline must have been wanting, when of only a few could it be said that "they did not defile their garments." But there is one touch in the description which is full of significance. "I have not found any of thy works perfect [that is, finished] before My God." The image suggested is that of a fickle Church, rushing from one thing to another, beginning works and growing weary, taking up and dropping down, impossible to be relied on by God or man. Fickleness is a very common fault; therefore the Lord's words to Sardis need to be dwelt on. There is no graver symptom of our time than its prevailing restlessness. So many men and women follow the ever-changing fashion — in dress, or books, or household decoration, or art, in science, in philosophy, in philanthrophy, in scepticism, or in faith. Theirs is not the versatility of a catholic temper, but of a shallow soul; such persons proclaim that they have no taste, that is, no original perceptions, no standard of excellence. There is the same instability among the Churches; the popular religious catch-words are for ever changing. Yesterday the parrot-cry was "Orthodoxy"; to-day it is "Liberality, freedom of thought." There is to them no "word of the Lord"; they have no profound sense of duty, no consecrating purpose, nothing about which they can say, "This one thing I do; this is what I believe with all my heart; of this I am sure; to this I cleave, I can no other, God help me." And if fickleness be thus the sign and symptom that underneath all shews of religious activity there is death, so fickleness works death. The notion such people have that their great need is some new thing, a new impulse, a new call, is part of their soul-sickness. Their real want is the heart to stick to what they are about. Nearly the whole discipline of piety is in the fact that persistency brings lessons which we can learn in no other way. If we try to perfect what we are doing, we learn our defects and how to supply them; we learn what we can do and how to do it; we strengthen the sense of duty, and catch the meaning of hardness; sources of comfort will open to us when" sore weary with our work well done"; God Himself comes to teach us, and lead us, and be our God. In Sardis, as in Laodicea, there is a special word of comfort to the faithful, because they have found fidelity so hard. "Thou hast a few names in Sardis," etc. The promise is itself an implied charge against the many; they are defiled as well as heartless. So it must ever be; the pollutions of the world, the flesh, and the devil are sure to overtake those who are not steadfast in their piety. All the more impressive is Christ's assurance that He has not overlooked the few. He who has the seven Spirits is quick to discern fidelity in unlikely places; He watches to discern and to acknowledge them. Fidelity is acknowledged by Christ as of eternal virtue, however it may reveal itself; and the company of those who overcome is one company, whether the victory have been won on a conspicuous or an ignoble field. It seems so reserved an utterance: "I will not blot out his name"; but the book in which the name is written is "the book of life." It is no small honour which is conferred on the clean souls in Sardis when they are declared "worthy" to walk with Christ in white. There is a touch of exquisite consideration, of appreciation of what their life had been, in the promise with which the message ends: "He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments." Heaven shall be to them the consummation of what they had worked for and striven after on earth.

(A. Mackennal, D. D.)

I. DELUSIVE APPEARANCES; OR, THE DEATH THAT SIMULATES LIFE. There is nothing so unmistakable as natural death; in tree, animal, or man, it makes itself fearfully plain. Life may exist in a sluggish or imperfect form, but between the feeblest life and death there is an immeasurable distance. But with spiritual death it is often otherwise. The advances are so stealthy, and so swift, that sometimes every grace and gift has perished before the symptoms of the plague are discerned. Wendell Holmes tells us that in the introduction to "Gil Blas" it is said, "Here lies buried the soul of the licentiate." Where do not souls lie buried? One beneath the self-consciousness of pride, and another beneath ceremonies which are good in themselves, but which may produce evil, if unduly relied upon. Under what sin is thy soul buried. And let us look at the gracious aspect which is presented here of our Lord. When the king of Ethiopia of old heard that the Persian monarch was dead, he remarked, "It is no wonder that he died, when he lived on dirt." The allusion, of course, is to corn, which at that period was unknown in Ethiopia. Of Darracott, on the contrary, it was finely said, "that he looked as if he lived upon live things," for he possessed such abundant vitality. So is it that a man is like that which he mentally feeds upon; so that if he communes regularly and constantly with Christ, he wilt become Christ-like, and will live by the life of Christ.

II. DECAYING GRACES; OR, BAD WHICH MAY BECOME WORSE. "The decay was not as yet thorough in the Church at Sardis; there was still a chance of regaining the lost time, and living by Christ. But unless the Church became vigilant, and took the needful measures, the decay would eventually become complete." The graces of the Spirit are granted only to certain conditions, and they are removed when these essentials depart from us. Incompleteness is decay. "I have found no works of thine fulfilled before my God." Their acts of charity and faith had been marred; they were introductions without any succeeding chapters, indeed, but a series of failures. And may not the words imply that one grace cannot live without the other, that they are mutually dependent, that if one be absent, or be wilfully left out, the others will languish and perhaps die? In grace as in nature the balance of life must be preserved. So in grace, every virtue sustains some other, and they rise and fall together.

III. THE SURPRISES OF JUDGMENT: THE GRACIOUS OR THE JUST ONE. "I will come as a thief," Christ threatens, by which I understand that in reference to His judgment He thus describes its stealthiness. And with the unexpected nature of this visitation, is there not also combined the idea of its being unwelcome?

IV. THE TRUE CITIZEN OF THE WORLD IS A NATIVE OF HEAVEN. The true question which we should ask ourselves and each other is not, Are you prepared to die? but, Are you fit to live? Hence, Baine concentrates the meaning of the passage into the phrase, "Singular piety in degenerate times is dear to God."

(J. J. Ellis.)

I. THE FORM OF ADDRESS. Sardis was a city of considerable eminence, nearly equidistant from Smyrna and Thyatira. It was formerly the capital of the kingdom of Lydia, and is celebrated in profane history as the residence of Croesus, proverbial for his great riches, which were seized by Cyrus in aid of his expedition against Babylon. In the usual course of all these cities, it fell, first into the hands of the Persians, then of the Macedonians, and then of the Roman empire. A village only now remains, near which are some ruins of the ancient city. The character in which Christ appears to this Church is taken partly from the dedication in the 4th verse, and partly from the vision in Revelation 1:16. This is proof that the whole book, from the commencement, is supposed to be sent with the addresses to the Churches.

II. THE REBUKE. Hero is no commendation to the Church generally. It is given afterwards, as an exception to a few. This Church had formerly been in a flourishing state. It was composed, at first, of simple-hearted and pious believers. There was life in their ministry, life in their ordinances, life in their social meetings, life in their retirements, and life in their souls. This state of things, however, did not long continue. There was a gradual and imperceptible falling away from the grace of the gospel. The Spirit's influences were less desired, and consequently less enjoyed. Zeal was not deficient, nor even fortitude to brave persecution for the sake of their religion. Their works were considerable, and, in some respects, worthy of imitation by those who are actuated by better principles. These are observed by the Saviour, but as serving only to sustain a profession of the vitality of which they were destitute. "I know thy works, that thou hast a name," etc. This is displeasing to Christ, because of its gross inconsistency, because of the false aspect which it gives to His kingdom before the world, and because of the dishonour which it casts upon the office of the Spirit of God. A further complaint preferred against this Church is, "I have not found thy works perfect before God." The literal meaning is finished, or complete. Their works were imperfect in the principles from which they emanated, and in the ends to which they were directed. They were forms without life, professions without fruit. Another feature of their declension is indirectly asserted in these words, "Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments." This sentence to a Church, which probably boasted most of the Christian name, and aspired most to ecclesiastical distinction, was peculiarly humiliating. Where the life of godliness fails, it were vain to look for its fruits. The name of Christianity presents a feeble barrier to the corruptions of our fallen nature. What safeguard is there in nominal Christianity against moral defilement?

III. THE ADMONITIONS. The Saviour exhorts the offenders at Sardis first of all to watchfulness. "Be watchful." Let them reflect upon their condition, rouse themselves to vigilant inquiry. They are exhorted "to strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die." Here is an acknowledgment that some genuine piety continued amongst them. This Church is reminded, "how it had received and heard," and is exhorted to hold fast its first instructions, and repent of its deviations from them.

IV. THE THREATENING: "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come," etc.

V. THE EXCEPTION: "Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments." There were some, even in Sardis, who had escaped the general defilement. In the worse ages of the Church a remnant has been preserved that have kept their garments pure. The Waldenses, Moravians, and others, will be found to authenticate the truth of this observation.

VI. THE PROMISE. The threatening is to the many that have fallen, the promise to the few that have not defiled their garments. "They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy." VII. THE APPLICATION: "He that overcometh, the marne shall be clothed in white raiment," etc.

(G. Rogers.)

I. THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE MANY.

1. They had a reputation for being what they were not.

2. They were in a state of spiritual consumption.

3. They were in a state requiring prompt and urgent attention.

4. They were in a state of alarming danger.

II. THE EXCEPTIONAL CHARACTER OF THE FEW.

1. True goodness can exist under external circumstances the most corrupt.

2. True goodness, wherever it exists, engages the specific attention of Christ.

(1)Because it is the highest manifestation of God upon earth.

(2)Because it is the result of His mediatorial mission.

(3)Because on it depends the progress of humanity.

3. True goodness will ultimately be distinguished by a glorious reward.

(1)Triumph.

(2)Fellowship.

(3)Progress.

III. THE ABSOLUTE JUDGE OF ALL.

1. In connection with the highest influence.

2. In connection with the highest ministry.

3. In connection with the highest Being. "My Father."This implies —

(1)Causation.

(2)Resemblance.

(3)Reciprocal love.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. NOTICE THE TITLE WHICH JESUS CHRIST ASSUMES. "He that hath the seven spirits of God."

1. The Holy Ghost is a Spirit of quickening, of conversion, of prayer, of holiness, and of comfort; for all these purposes the Lord Jesus communicates the Holy Spirit, and hence, He describes Himself as having the "seven Spirits of God."

2. The expression, doubtless, signifies something transcendently above the claim of the most exalted creature.

II. OBSERVE THE DEPLORABLE STATE IN WHICH THE TEXT DESCRIBES THE CHURCH IN SARDIS TO HAVE BEEN.

1. In the visible Church of Christ there are many who have nothing of religion but its lifeless and worthless form. They bear the Christian name, but are totally destitute of Christian principles, and Christian tempers. They are externally clean, and internally impure. They employ language expressive of Christian experience, without possessing correspondent feelings.

2. Genuine Christians are subject to declension in religion.

III. NOTICE SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS OF THE AFFECTING STATE DESCRIBED IN THE TEXT.

1. Backsliding usually begins in remissness relative to the most secret exercises of religion. The first steps of a backslider are visible only to God and the individual himself.

2. The effect of spiritual declension soon makes its appearance in the domestic circle.

3. Another symptom of this affecting state is worldly-mindedness.

4. A censorious spirit is a certain symptom of lamentable declension in the things of God in the soul.

5. A love of novelty is another symptom of declension in religion.

6. It is evinced by irritability and unsubmissiveness of temper under trials and afflictions.

IV. THE SEASONABLE EXHORTATION WHICH OUR LORD ADDRESSED TO THE CHURCH IN SARDIS.

V. THIS SUBJECT ADDRESSES ITSELF TO THREE DESCRIPTIONS OF CHARACTER.

1. To those whose souls are prosperous, and who enjoy the inestimable privileges of religion. "Be not high-minded, but fear."

2. To those whose case is described in the text. Your experience teaches you that "it is an evil thing, and bitter, to sin against God."

3. To those who are totally destitute of genuine religion. Your state is inexpressibly awful, and infinitely dangerous.

(J. Hyatt.)

I. THE REBUKE GIVEN IN THE TEXT TO THE CHURCH OF SARDIS. Beware lest the too partial judgment of men mislead thee as to the judgment of God. Bring thyself to a Scriptural test. Judge as thou wilt be judged at the great day of account.

II. THE COMMENDATION BESTOWED, IN THIS ADDRESS, ON A FEW OF THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF SARDIS.

1. There are no circumstances so bad as to render goodness impossible.

2. Even the smallest company of true worshippers is not forgotten before God.

III. THE COUNSEL GIVEN TO THE CHURCH OF SARDIS IN THIS ADDRESS. There are means of revival which may in every case be employed with success. The page of history presents to us some splendid examples, in which a body of troops, checked and dispirited for a time, have suddenly beheld the banner, or caught the voice of their leader; and at once, throwing away their doubts and fears, have returned to the fight, scaled the rampart, and crowned themselves with fresh triumphs and glory.

IV. THE THREAT CONNECTED WITH THESE COUNSELS TO THE CHURCH OF SARDIS. All the movements of God, especially in the works of creation, are so precisely in order — the sun and the moon knowing their place, and each season following in the train of the other — that it is difficult to persuade ourselves God will in any case interrupt this regular succession of events, and astonish the sinner by any sudden or unexpected explosion of His wrath. But how often do His visitations thus unexpectedly arrest the ungodly!

V. THE PROMISES WITH WHICH THE TEXT CLOSES.

(J. W. Cunningham.)

He that hath the seven Spirits
By these seven Spirits of God is meant apparently that One Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, to whom, with the Father and the Son, we render homage and praise. And the reason for the peculiarity of the sevenfold Spirit is because in this book that Spirit is contemplated, not so much in the unity of His person as in the manifoldness of His operations. And, further, that the number seven, being a sacred number, expresses completeness. And so, "He that hath the seven Spirits of God" represents Jesus Christ as possessing, and as possessing that He may impart, the whole fulness of that quick and Divine Spirit. Thus the first thought to be presented to the moribund Church is of the fulness of Divine life gathered into that Spirit who is not enclosed in inaccessible mysteries of deity, but going forth like the flame of the torch, like the glance of the eye, everywhere where men are. This great Life giver is waiting for all feeble and half-dead Christian hearts to come surging into it if they will, and to fill them with its own vitality. Notice still further that the second of the predicates applied to our Lord here suggests for us one very frequent way in which He cleanses out Churches. He hath the seven Spirits and the seven stars. The stars are the symbols of the angels, and the angels are the representatives of the teachers of the Churches; taking that for granted, is it not beautiful that our Lord should be represented, if I may so say, as holding in one hand the seven Spirits of life and in the other hand the seven stars, or to put away the emblem, and to take another figure in Scripture, in the right hand He held the golden vase full of the anointing oil, in the other hand an empty chalice into which it was poured. Jesus Christ wakes up a dead Church by bringing the seven Spirits of God into the hearts of selected men: for the way in which great revivals of religion in little communities and in big ones is usually brought about is that some man or men are filled with the fulness of God and become weary of forbearing and feel the Word like a fire lit up in their bones, and are so fitted to be God's instruments for communicating the magnetism of life to the dead Church. And now let me ask you to think of one or two very simple lessons from this vision.

1. First of all, should not this vision shame us all into penitent consciousness of our own deadness? So much life waiting to be bestowed, and so little actually appropriated and possessed by us. The whole flood of ChriSt's grace running by our doors, and we, like improvident settlers in some new country, having no provision for storing or for distributing it, but letting it all run to waste.

2. And then, should not this vision set us upon questioning ourselves as to what it is that keeps the life of Jesus Christ out of our hearts? In the winter time in our towns, when the water stops in the houses, why doesn't it come? Because there is a plug of ice in the service pipe; and there is a plug of ice in a great many Christian hearts in connection with their Master. Life is sustained by food, by air, and by exercise. Do you feed the life of Christ in you? Do you read your Bible? You will never be vigorous Christians unless you can say, "I have desired the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food." Life is sustained by air breathed. Do you take that Divine Spirit into yourselves, expanding that capacity by desire, and so oxygenating all your life and cleansing out the corruptions of sin? And life is sustained by exercise. Do you do anything for Jesus Christ? Absolute idleness is a sure way, and it is a very popular way amongst many Christian people to kill the life of Christ within us.

3. And so, let this vision draw us to our Master that we may get the life He can give from His own hands. Your Christianity can only be sustained by the repetition continually of that which kindled it at first.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I know thy works
I. THE LORD KNOWS EVERY MAN'S ILL COURSES. He knows what men are, and what they have been, and what they will be, as He knows all their thoughts, words, and works. He knows all their dispositions, their persons, their natures, their qualities, their affections, and ends and aims and motives, and estates; He knows how many are rotten though they profess never so much, how many are unsound though they be never so well esteemed in the Church; He knows in what estate every man stands (Job 11:11). The use of this is, first — Is it so that God knows all men's sinful courses? If men be dead-hearted, He knows it; if they be heartless in good duties, He knows it; though they would be loth that men should know what they are, and do keep it from them, yet they cannot daub it before God; He knows it. Then this may serve to confute them that say, God does not know sin. True, sin is an evil, yea the greatest evil of all evils; yet the knowledge of it is good. God knows who do abuse Him, and how people carry themselves towards all His commandments and worship; it is a part of His perfection to know it. Secondly, another use is to condemn the most sorts of men that do net consider of this truth; they little think that God sees all their doings. I fear there is hardly any among us that will seem to deny but that God can see all his ways; and yet we see it is too apparent by men's lives, that few men do believe this indeed. If we did charge this upon our souls, we could not live so loosely as we do. Thirdly, Is it so that God sees all men's sins? Then this is a terror to all that go on with a self-condemning heart (1 John 3:20). If we have self-condemning heart, how much more shall we find a condemning God? Fourthly, this is comfort to good people; for if God see all men's sins, then He sees all men's goodness much rather. Again, what a comfort is this? If we desire to know our sins, God is able to show them unto us. Fifthly, Does God know all men's sins? Then this should make us afraid to do evil at any time, or in any place, yea in the secretest.

II. THE KNOWLEDGE THAT GOD KNOWS ALL OUR WORKS IS THE POWERFUL MEANS TO ALL GOD'S ELECT, TO DO THEM GOOD, AND TO QUICKEN THEM AND TO MAKE THEM TAKE HEED OF ALL MANNER OF SIN.

1. Because the Lord's knowing of our works is not only a mere knowing of them, but also a marking and a pondering them too.

2. Because when God sees all our sins, it is with a most holy and pure eye, and such an eye as cannot abide such an object before Him.

3. Because when God sees all our sins, He records them, He notes them in a book that He may never forget them.

4. Because when God sees our sins, it is even all one as if all the world should see them too; for let our sins be never so secret, yet, it God know it, it is worse than if all the world knew it; for all the world shall know it one day.

5. Our disposition is such that we cannot abide that our wickednesses should be seen of anybody that we know cannot abide them.

III. NOW WE COME TO THE PARTICULARS. The first is in these words, Thou hast a name that thou livest. By "name" is meant a mere name, as we see by the clause following, "and art dead"; for when a man is dead, the name to live must needs be a mere name. First, a name in regard of themselves, they took themselves to be alive; as Paul had a name to live before his conversion, while yet he was Pharisee, he had then a name to live (Romans 7:9). Secondly, a name in regard to other godly Churches; others in the judgment of charity conceived they were alive; as the Scribes, and the Pharisees, our Saviour Christ told them, they had name to live (Matthew 23:27), that is, ye seem to be alive, ye have a name to live, but indeed ye are dead. Thirdly, a name among poor, ignorant, and simple people that are led away with shows. Ye know that there be abundance of poor, simple people, that knew not what true religion is, nay, maybe hate it, but yet they are led away with the show of it. Fourthly, a name among the persecution of religion, and so they are persecuted too among them that live indeed; for mockers take them to be of the same number. Now the point of doctrine is this, that it is a horrible thing to rest in a mere name of being religious. The reasons are, first — this is to be farthest off from religion; because himself will not, and others cannot so effectually apply to him the means of recovery, he being in his own and others' judgment a true convert. As a sick man who thinks himself well is of all others farthest from cure. Religion is a real thing, and therefore he that rests in having the name of it, is farthest off from it. Secondly, it is a very blasphemy to get the name for good people, when we are not good people indeed. The reason is this — religion hath an inward dependence upon God; it hath an internal relation unto God; it puts a man into a propriety with God that God is his God; it puts the very name of God upon a man. Now, if a man take the name without the thing, it must needs be a very blasphemy. Thirdly, it is a fiat lie, when a man hath the name of a good Christian, and hath not the thing signified by the name. Fourthly, it is an unreasonable thing. When a man hath not the thing, there is no reason that he should have the name. Fifthly, it is an impudent thing. When we have a name to live and to be wrought upon by the Word, what an impudent thing is it, if we do not look to it that we be so indeed. One would think we should blush to think what a name we have, and how little we make good our name between God and our own souls. Sixthly, it is an inexcusable thing. If we have a name to be alive, we are without excuse if we be not. First, because out of our own mouths God will judge us; we said we were His people, we took the name of His servants; why then He will say, Why had I not your service? Why would you do no more for Me? Secondly, ye can have no other excuse. Can you say you could not believe in My Name? Ye could not forego such and such lusts at My command? Why then would you go for My servants? Seventhly, it is an unprofitable thing: a naked name will do us no good. True faith alone does justify, not the name of it; true peace of conscience does comfort, not the name of it; true interest in God gives a man a cheerful access to God, not the name of it, Eighthly, it is not only unprofitable, but also it is hurtful. It is hurtful unto others. It is hurtful unto them that are without; for when they see how lazy such as go for professors be, how they have little else in them but talking and professing, and prating and hearing, this hardens the heart of them that are without, and makes them all think that religion is a matter of nothing. Again, they do a great deal of hurt unto comers on. Many a man that is smitten at the word, that begins amendment, and gives good hopes that he will come to something in the end, when he lights upon such Sardian saints, that are so in name, but there is no life at all in them, these put him back again. Again, they do a great deal of hurt unto the saints of God, sometimes by deceiving of their hearts and cooling of their zeal and fervour, or if they cannot do that, then they hate them, and prove very shy of them, and gird them behind their backs, and do them much mischief. Again, they do a great deal of hurt to themselves, for it had been better for them they had never had a name, than having a name not to be as the name does require. No; the Lord does not find fault with Sardis for having of a name that they lived, but that they had this name when as they were dead; if they had been alive, the name to be alive had been well. Then what use must we make of this point?

1. To show the misery of some of our Churches. They have only a name to live, though we might live well enough, for we have the doctrine of life, in many places, yet in regard of our conversations for the most part, we may say it is but only a name. For how does sin reign among us everywhere? Covetousness, profaneness, fulness of bread, lust, security, deadness of heart, formality — now where such sins do abound, there the power of godliness must needs be away. Generally our assemblies content themselves with an outward profession; if they go so far, they have but a name to live. Come we to the graces of God's Holy Spirit, without the which a man is dead in trespasses and sins, etc., as faith, repentance, peace of conscience, and love, etc., where are any of these to be found?

2. Another use is of terror against us. Do we think that the Lord will endure this at our hands? He hath endured it too long, but He will not suffer it always. He hath a spiritual thunder-clap that He lets fly against this sin (Isaiah 32:5). That is, the Lord will unmask all such persons, He will pluck off all their names, and they shall have a name fit for their natures, and He will do this — First, in their own consciences. Secondly, in the judgment of others. If we rest in a name, the Lord will detect us at last before others; and then what a shame will this be?

(W. Fenner, B. D.)

I. CHRIST HATH A PERFECT KNOWLEDGE OF EVERY ONE'S WORKS.

1. In what extent we are to understand "the works" which Christ is said to know. Works here are not to be taken as distinguished from words and thoughts, but in the largest sense, as including both.

2. In what manner Christ knows men's works.(1) The knowledge Christ has of the works of men is most clear. He does not take up with appearances, but sees through every disguise, and takes things as they really are.(2) The knowledge Christ hath of the works of men is immediate, not by report from others, but from His own all-penetrating light and inspection.(3) The knowledge Christ hath of the works of men is perfect and full. Perfect as to their number; none of them escape His notice or regard; perfect as to their nature and circumstances, and as to the springs and aims of those that do them. Works that we may have forgotten are known to Him and remembered by Him.(4) The knowledge Christ has of the works of men is infallible and liable to no mistake. He cannot be deceived, and will not be mocked.(5) The knowledge Christ has of the works of men is with approbation, or dislike, according as they are found to be good or bad.

II. WHOEVER HE BE THAT HATH A NAME TO LIVE, AND YET IS DEAD, IS KNOWN TO CHRIST AS WHAT HE REALLY IS.

1. What is implied in having a name to live? They that are really in a state of grace may be justly said to live, as such souls live to the best purpose; for to them to live is Christ. They are out of the reach of the sting of death, and so need not through fear of it pass their lives in bondage; they are near a blessed immortality, in which they are to live for ever. To be thus privileged is to be alive indeed. And such a name may be acquired —(1) By a freedom from the grosser pollutions of the world.(2) A name to live, as it implies an open and visible profession of subjection to Christ, a joining with His people in His worship and ordinances, and an holding on some time in such a course; so it may arise from these.(3) A name to live may result from experiencing the common operations of the Spirit of God, which for a time may look hopeful and promising.(4) These convictions and external reformations may be accompanied with excelling gifts, enlargedness in the duty of prayer, joy and delight in hearing and attending upon the supper of the Lord, frequency in acts of self-denial and mortification. There may be great head-knowledge and ability to discourse of hypocrisy itself with appearing abhorrence, and of sincerity with signs of love to it; and yet all these may be found in one unchanged at heart.

2. Such a name some professors of Christianity may have, who are all the while they bear it spiritually dead. If it be asked, With whom such may have a name to live? a negative answer is obvious: Not with Him who seeth not as man seeth.But,

1. They may have a name to live with themselves: they may reckon themselves in a state of grace, when they are all the while in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity.(1) In the security that reigns in their souls. They dread no danger, though the nearest to it, but cry, Peace, Peace, to themselves, when sudden destruction is coming upon them.(2) Sinners show their good opinion of themselves in the hope they keep up of their safety with reference to their souls and eternity.(3) They may have a superficial joy in spiritual things as the stony ground hearers had in receiving the word; and thus, with themselves they have a name to live.

2. They may have a name to live among others, and these the friends and followers of Christ.

3. The sadness of the case, to be dead, under a name to live, or of being alive.Application:

1. Does Christ know every man's works? How strange is it that it should be brought into dispute, whether He be truly and properly God!

2. Does Christ know the works of every man? What ignorance or unbelief does it argue in such as sin securely, if they can but do it secretly!

3. What seriousness becomes us whenever we engage in any holy duty or religious worship, as all our works are known to Christ!

4. What reason have we to be humble in a review of our own works, as they are all known to Christ, and, as many of them are such as we have cause to fear, He at once observed and disapproved!

5. How fit is Christ to be the Judge of all men at the last day, who knows every man's work now!

6. How big with terror to hypocrites is this doctrine.

7. The hearts of those in whom there is no guile allowed, may take comfort in the thoughts that Christ knows their works and knows them to be the fruits of His Spirit and grace in them.

8. May one that has a name to live be spiritually dead? Hence learn that saving religion in an inward thing.

9. When Christ declares, I know. thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead, with what solicitude should every one make the inquiry, Lord, is it I?

10. How inconsiderable a thing is it to be judged of man in this day! of man that looketh only on the outside. Our chief concern is with one infinitely greater: He that judges us is the Lord.

11. How terrible will the day of Christ's coming be to the self-deceiving hypocrite, and how joyful to the humble saint.

(D. Wilcox.)

I.THE WORK OF THE BODY.

II.THE WORK OF THE MIND.

III.THE WORK OF THE CHARACTER.

IV.THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT.

V.THE WORK OF SUFFERING.

(H. H. Gowen.)

That
I. WHAT IS NECESSARY TO GIVE A MAN A NAME TO LIVE?

1. It is necessary that he abstain from vice, and the grosser pollutions of the world.

2. Besides this, there must be an external appearance of devotion. Mere negatives will not be sufficient.

II. WHEN MAY A MAN BE SAID HAVE A NAME TO LIVE ONLY? A statue may be so curiously painted and dressed as to be mistaken, at a distance, for a man; and a hypocrite may borrow so much of the appearance of Christian graces, as may enable him to pass for a genuine Christian.

1. He has nothing but a name who attends to the outward part of religion only.

2. He that has but a name to live, feels no satisfaction and joy in approaching to God.

3. He has a name to live only, who, notwithstanding all his religious exercises, is in no degree better.

4. He has a name to live only, whom difficulties or apprehended dangers cause to turn back, or who, as Solomon says, "faints in the day of adversity."

III. THE FOLLY AND DANGER OF BEING SATISFIED WITH A NAME TO LIVE WHILE YOU ARE DEAD.

1. Consider then, that while this is your character your services cannot be acceptable to God.

2. Consider again, that while you indulge this lifeless religion you will never attain to holiness.

3. Besides, it can never give true satisfaction. It may silence, but it cannot satisfy conscience.

4. With nothing but a name to live, we shall never obtain an admission into heaven.

(S. Lavington.)

1. One cause of spiritual death is self-satisfaction. A traveller lost on the prairie, with the snow falling fast and thick, with his blood coursing slowly, feels that sense of ease which the opium-eater knows. He lies down in the soft white drifts. They make an easy bed. His friends find him and try to arouse him. He would rather be left undisturbed. His self-satisfaction works his death. George III. was satisfied with his government of the American colonies; he therefore refused to remedy its abuses, and his satisfaction cost him these colonies. Upon all who are satisfied with their standing before God the chill of spiritual death has begun to rest. They can no more draw spiritual life from themselves, than one can feed his body by sucking blood from its veins. Therefore, satisfied with their relation to God, they do not strive to gain life from Him who is the source of the life spiritual, as He is of the life physical. Their self-satisfaction works the ruin of their souls.

2. But more frequently than by self-satisfaction is the spiritual life killed by the indulgence of some sin. Many a man has felt he could surrender his entire property to God; but when the temptation arose of making a hundred dollars by a trick of the trade, he has chosen to be dishonest. But the sin may not be one of commission. It may consist in the omission of some duty. It may consist in the refusal of some means of grace. It may consist in the preference of doing nothing to advance God's cause. Such sins of omission deaden the spiritual life. But in general the sin consists in the choice of some other good than the good which the Christian life affords.

(C. P. Thwing.)

The evidences of salvation are various, and may be viewed in various ways. On the present occasion — looking to the expression of the text, where the word rendered "dead" is literally "a dead body," a corpse — I will endeavour to work out the marks of a living as opposed to a dead soul, from what we know to be marks of a living as opposed to a dead body.

I. One great characteristic of spiritual life, in the Bible, is the possession of SPIRITUAL SIGHT. The first test, therefore, I would propose of spiritual life is a perception of spiritual truth. Place before the eye of the living body a scene of loveliness or of horror, and from the eye the heart is at once affected, at once feels the attraction or repulsion, and so feels as to act upon that feeling. Even so, place before the vision of the living soul a spiritual truth — the beauty of holiness, or the loathsomeness of sin — and at once does the heart so feel the truth as to act upon that feeling. Nay, verily, as spiritual facts are vastly beyond all corporeal facts in importance, so spiritual facts have vastly more effect upon the heart, when once the soul's vision is tolerably clear: they speedily become its all in all.

II. The living soul has HEARING as well as sight. There are many, who are listeners to religious sounds after a fashion, eager attendants on this or that preacher, ready hearkeners to certain kinds of religious conversation. But their hearing is an empty thing. It fills their head with notions and their tongue with words, and perchance their heart with a sort of excitement; but as to any solid effect on heart and practice, that is wanting. How different with the soul that really lives! This soul, conscious of God's presence, trembles at His threatenings, bows in reverence to His commands, melts at the hearing of His love, and pants after His promises in the very fervency of desire. Its spiritual ear, as its spiritual eye, brings every impression home to the heart; there roots it a vital principle, sanctifying the inner man and prompting the outer practice.

III. The living soul possesses also the faculty of SPEECH. Its very existence is prayer. Keenly alive to the greatness of its wants, and as alive to the willing fulness of the Lord, its desires are continually travelling upwards from these wants to that fulness, in the inward breathings of prayer, if not with its audible words.

IV. I will continue the analogy but one step further, and that is in GROWTH. True, spiritual life, as it is a quickening, so is it an impulsive principle. As it gives action to the spiritual eye, ear, and tongue, so does it give growth to the whole inner man. Slow growth it may be; still grow the living soul must and will. It is a growth in knowledge; but that is not the sure test. It is a growth in holiness, and that is She test; the one clear, decisive test of the soul's life (Matthew 7:20). True Christian holiness is not the honesty of the worldling; nor the honour of the gentleman; nor the temperance of the philosopher; nor the kindness of the good-natured; nor yet is it the mechanical observance of the formalist, nor the bustling vehemence of the religionist. True Christian holiness is a hearty conformity to God's whole will, acting in a loving obedience to all God's commandments. It works in two great lines of feeling and operation — in a deep-rooted horror of sin, as God's utter hate, and a perfect hungering and thirsting after righteousness, as God's supreme delight, both springing from entire love to God as their one grand source and motive. Conclusion: What is the result of this inquiry for you? As mark after mark of spiritual life has been brought forward, have you been able to say, "This mark I have; if not in the highest degree, still, God be thanked, most assuredly I have it"? But are there any who can find no such marks in their soul? Then, whatever else you may have, you are destitute indeed. You may be very amiable in men's eyes. Death has sometimes its momentary beauty. A shadowy loveliness is seen to linger on the lifeless features. Yet the work of decay and destruction is just as busy beneath. You may be gifted with great talents and great energy; you may gain high distinction and honour in the world; but if your soul be not "alive in Christ," what is all this but a fading garland on the head of a corpse?

(John Gibson, B. D.)

I. A CHURCH MAY BE SAID TO LIVE WHILE SHE IS DEAD, WHEN SHE HAS THE NAME OF CHRISTIAN WITHOUT THE DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL.

1. The most important discovery in the Word of God is that of redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ from sin and death and misery. One of the most vital doctrines must therefore be what relates to the Person of the Redeemer.

2. The second doctrine upon which depends the life of the Church, is the Atonement or Sacrifice which Christ our Lord has offered for sin. The supreme deity of our Saviour demonstrates His power to save if He would.

3. The third doctrine upon which depends the life of the Church, is that which relates to the Holy Spirit and His influences.

4. In the sum of these doctrines we discover the fourth principle upon the influence of which the life of the Church depends, the doctrine of Free Grace. The practical reception of this doctrine in the Church lies at the foundation of a religion for sinners.

II. The Church may have a name to live, and be in reality dead, WHEN ORTHODOXY IN OPINION IS SUBSTITUTED FOR MORALITY IN PRACTICE. III. THE CHURCH MAY HAVE A NAME TO LIVE, WHILE IN REALITY DEAD, FROM HAYING AN EXTERNAL MORALITY WITHOUT HUMILITY AND PIETY.

(H. Cooke, D. D.)

I say the minister may be in the fault; the point is very clear from this place. The Lord being to reprove the people here of Sardis, for their deadness in religion, He directs His reproof to their minister. The good or bad estate of a people dependeth much upon the minister. Commonly we see it fall out, as the Prophet Hosea said, "Like people, like priest" (Hosea 4:9). Such as the builder is, such is the building; as is the husbandman, so is the husbandry.

(Wm. Fenner, B. D.)

By dead I mean five things.

1. Deadness of guilt; when a man is guilty of any offence, that is death by the law. Now when a man is not pardoned of God, he is dead, though he have never so many hopes and conceits of forgiveness.

2. Deadness of mind, when the mind is ignorant of God in regard of saving knowledge.

3. Deadness of heart, when the heart is not inclined towards God, then we say it is dead towards God and all goodness.

4. Deadness of conscience, when the conscience hath no force; it may be it finds fault with such and such ways, but it hath no power over the man to make him to leave them.

5. Deadness of affection; when the affections are clumsy, and will not stir towards God and all heavenly things. Should a man have all Christianity in him, and yet be dead and dull and without life, it is even all one as if he had just nothing. First, for conversion. Should a man seem to be converted, O what a changed man is this! He was a drunkard, and now he is sober. This is well. Ay, but if thou beest dead to the ways of God this is nothing towards heaven; except a new life be put into this man, to be alive in all these good ways; except he be quickened together with Christ. Secondly, faith. Should a man lean himself upon God, and upon Christ, should a man apply all the promises of the gospel to his soul; alas, what of this? If this man be dead still, without such a faith as produces life, it is little better than nothing. Thirdly, to be a member of the visible Church of God, to be a stone in God's building, put in by baptism, kept in by profession of the Christian faith. This is a poor thing, if this man now be not lively stone. Fourthly, for hope. It may be thou hast hope that thou art a good Christian, thou hast a hope of the heavenly inheritance; now if thy hope be a dead hope, if it does not quicken thee up to trample on the world, to carry thee on through thick and thin, this is not a gracious hope. Fifthly, for repentance. Whatever thou hast to say for repentance, canst thou plead a thousand changes and reformations, yet if thou hast not gotten out of a dead temper, thou art yet under an impenitent heart. Again, to go over all duties of religion — they must be done with life; to do them with a dead heart, is as good as not to do them at all. Religion is a very irksome thing unto us, as long as we are dead.hearted. What is it that takes away the grievousness of it, but a lively heart?

(Wm. Fenner, B. D.)

I need scarcely remind you that all the seven epistles to the Churches are cast in one mould; each of them begins with setting forth some aspect of the ascended Christ's power or glory or relation with His Churches, which aspect is generally drawn from the great vision in the first chapter. It is to this correspondence between the aspect in which our Lord is revealed here and the state of the Church of which the vision is given, that I venture to ask your attention. First of all, then, let us try to understand what sort of a Church it is that wants this vision. It was dead. One smiting word stands in the place of all characterisation; it had no persecutions like the faithful band at Smyrna. Why should it? It had not life enough to be obnoxious! What was there in such a Church as that to provide any antagonism? It exactly suited the world's purpose, and was, in fact, only a bit of the world under another name. A dead Church is on the best possible terms with a dead world. When the frost binds the ground, weeds and flowers alike cease to be put forth. There is a worse condition than when many people are thinking earnestly about religion, and some of them are thinking wrongly. And so the Church at Sardis had no heretics because there was nobody in it that cared enough about the principles of Christianity to think earnestly about them. And it had no immoralities either — most respectable. And yet one Eye looked at it and said, "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and are dead." About how many of our Churches and of the individual Christians who take up the profession of Christ and connect themselves with ecclesiastical arrangements with such light hearts, may the same be said! Life is the condition of union with Jesus Christ, and death is the grim alternative that waits upon separation from Him. That Church had lost the tenacity of its hold and the intimacy of its union with Jesus Christ. Now note further, as brought out in this letter, that such a condition is not final and irreversible. They were not so utterly dead as moribund, and so in another part of the letter we read about things which remain and are ready to die, and about works which were done but were not perfect or fulfilled. Ay! effects last after causes cease; institutions live when all the reality is out of them. Habit, use and wont, forms, ceremonies, keep up the appearance of vitality when the reality is almost gone. There are creatures of a low organisation where you can get muscular contractions after life is extinct; you will find gardens round many a deserted, roofless house in the country where the weeds have not killed all the roses, and a vagrant flower or two still remains to testify the culture that was. And so in thousands of our communities there is enough left of the living, lingering effect of the primitive impulse to keep up a ghastly mockery of life which would be far better if it knew itself to be what it is — dead! And that brings me to say again that such a condition may be absolutely concealed from every eye but the Eye that is as a flame of fire. A great many of our communities I am afraid are living on the past. John Wesley had a great name, but you cannot live because there was once John Wesley with you. Unconsciousness is the surest sign of spiritual decline. I suppose a man paralysed has no sense in his limbs, and might put his feet into a tub of scalding water and take the flesh off the bones and never know it. Frostbitten limbs are perfectly comfortable: it is the waking that is the pain. Like the hero of the Old Testament Book with his locks cropped, they go out as of old to exercise themselves, and they wist not that their strength has departed from them till they try a death-grapple with the Philistines, and then they find it out fast enough. What is it that has in the course of ages worn into indistinctness the sharp-cut granite features of the Sphynx that looks out over the Egyptian desert? The perpetual attrition of microscopic grains of sand blown against it by the vagrant winds! And so the multitudinous trivialities of life, coming in contact with the image of Jesus Christ in our hearts, will efface its fair features and leave but a dim outline.

II. Now, let me ask you to LOOK AT THE VISION WHICH SUCH A CHURCH NEEDS. "He that hath the seven spirits of God and the seven stars." It is a distinct reference to the personal spirit of God conceived of in the manifoldness of His operations rather than in the unity of His Personality. That spirit comes permeating, enlightening, illuminating, vivifying, discerning, and strengthening all of us if we yield ourselves to it. There is the antidote for a dead Church, a living spirit in the sevenfold perfectness of His operations. He is the spirit of consolation, of adoption, of supplication, of holiness and wisdom, of power and of love, and of sound mind, and into all our deadness there will come the life-breath which shall surely quicken it all. That which is unique in the history of Christianity as compared with all other religions, its power of self-recuperation, and when it is apparently nearest extinction, the marvellous way in which it flames up again because the Spirit of the Lord is poured forth. Other teachers — what can they do? They can impart a system, they can train a little group of dwindled imitators, who generally imitate their weaknesses, and think they are imitating their strength, but to give the spirit that animated the originator is exactly what none of them can do.

III. THE WORDS OF MY TEXT SUGGEST ONE OF THE WAYS IN WHICH THIS BESTOWMENT OF THE SEVEN SPIRITS IS ACCOMPLISHED. One way by which that Spirit of God is shed abroad upon His moribund Church is by raising up men in it filled with the Spirit, and whose intense vitality communicates life to that which is almost dead. Let us all go back to Him for quickening.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Many content themselves with the name of Christians; as if many a ship hath not been called "Safeguard" or "Good-speed" which yet hath fallen into the hands of pirates.

(J. Trapp.)

A pastor of a Church in a western town went to his prayer-meeting on Thursday evening as usual, where the attendance was very small; but that evening no one came; even the sexton went away after lighting the church. After waiting half an hour for his members to put in their appearance, and finding that he was the sole worshipper, he went to the bell-cord and slowly tolled the bell, as the custom was when any one died in the town. The alarm was magnetic. All over the town the inquiry was made, "Who is dead?" A number of the members of the Church hastened there to ascertain who was the unfortunate one. Just then the minister, descending the steps, was interrogated by several of his flock, "Who is dead?" "This Church is dead," was his response, and then and there he resigned the pastorate.

(D. Tasker, D. D.)

Nature presents us with many affecting illustrations of the semblance of life, where death is reigning; the flowers in your garden may for a time retain the form, when life is extinct; the ancient oak in the forest may stand for years erect, while life has long since passed away; the tiny shell on yonder beach may attract your notice, when its once little tenant can nowhere be found: so do we often think we find the form of godliness, when the power — the reality — the life are wanting.

(C. Bowes.)

I have seen a graft bound to the bleeding tree. It was inserted into its wounded side, that both might become one. Yet no incorporation followed. There was no living union. Spring came singing, and with her fingers opened all the buds; summer came, with her dewy nights and sunny days, and brought out all the flowers; brown autumn came to shake the trees and reap the fields, and with music and dances and mirth to hold harvest-home; but that unhappy branch bore no fruit, nor flower, nor even leaf. Held on by dead clay and rotting cords, it merely stuck to the living tree, a withered and unsightly thing. And so, alas! it is with many; having a name to live, they are dead.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

God abhors and man despises the fair colours of a religious profession that stand out, as it were, above the surface of the nature, like the appliquee of the embroiderer, instead of being interwoven with the stuff so as to become a part of it. Mere outward decorum and religious decency are not what God requires, though they are too often, alas I what is presented to Him in lieu of the beauties of holiness. It is easy to assume the character of God's people, to imitate their manners, to use their language, to conform to their habits. It is easier to paint a flower than to grow one.

(H. Macmillan, D. D.)

How like to a Christian a man may be and yet possess no vital godliness! Walk through the British Museum, and you will see all the orders of animals standing in their various places, and exhibiting themselves with the utmost possible propriety. The rhinoceros demurely retains the position in which he was set at first, the eagle soars not through the window, the wolf howls not at night; every creature, whether bird, beast, or fish, remains in the particular glass case allotted to it; but we all know these are not the creatures, but only the outward semblances of them. So in the Churches of Christ, many professors are not living believers, but stuffed Christians. They possess all the externals of religion, and every outward morality that you could desire; they behave with great propriety, they keep their places, and there is no outward difference between them and the true believer, except upon the vital point, the life which no power on earth can possibly confer. There is this essential distinction, spiritual life is absent.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I was reading in Humboldt's "Cosmos," the other day, a very remarkable thing. He tells us that he went with some Indians into a number of, huge caverns in South America, which were locked in perpetual darkness; but ill them certain fruit-eating bats were accustomed to go to dwell. They had brought there the seeds of different plants, and when Humboldt and his guides entered with their torches, there were trees and plants of every kind that had grown in the utter darkness. Just as you have seen a potato grow in your cellar, and send out its yellow sickly shoots, so the whole cavern was like a great forest or garden, full of these ghastly ghosts of plants. Oh, you may work in your Churches, and you may sow, and you may labour, but if the blessed light of God's own truth does not come in, it will be a sickly vegetation akin to death.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The other day I was at a railway station with a friend, and looking at a couple of engines. As we were talking the engine-driver came up, and I remarked, "We have just been admiring the engines; very splendid ones they are. I should think they are just alike." The man looked at me significantly. "Yes; they are much alike outside, but that one there has no fire burning, and it cannot even move itself; but this one here has the fire burning and the steam up, and I am just going to jump upon it, and you will see it run away with the whole train behind it." Well, I thought, there is just that difference between the for-realist and the true Christian. The formalist is, to all appearance, a splendid engine; but there is no fire and the steam is not up. The Christian may not be so powerful-looking or so showy, but then the fire is burning, and the steam is up; and while the one cannot help himself, the other will by his zeal affect a whole neighbourhood.

(C. Garrett.)

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